Triumph-ant

Road trip planning again. This time I’ve been reviewing my choice of machine for the trip, a brand new Triumph Trophy SE 1215 (The 2017 version). Now I’ve had an on again and off again love affair with Triumph Motorcycles for some considerable time. From the first time helping a mate rebuild his Triumph Tiger Cub clutch when I was just out of school, to my later trans-European adventures and high mileage high jinks on my old 900ST. In between there’s been a few Hondas and Suzukis, and I’ve test ridden a whole heap of other machines, but in the end my preference all comes down to long distance comfort.

My problem with most new motorcycles is that I’m a big guy. Long in both leg and body. Broad shouldered and heavy built, which is a legacy of hard physical work and extensive weight training regimen which began during my early teens removing tree stumps with axe, pick, shovel and brute force. I’m physically more carthorse than thoroughbred or Shetland pony so most motorcycles aren’t built for people of my size. There’s also the classic North American foot forward riding position and footboards which I don’t much care for. My riding heritage is Northern European where you fit around the very bones of your machine, not just sit in it like it’s a Lay-Z-Boy.

Harley Davidsons and the like were immediately off my buying list because despite their physical size and the reportedly fixed problems with electrics (especially in the wet). The positioning for feet and hands is more for those with short legs. Which came as a bit of a surprise. When I first sat astride one, I got the immediate impression that I would have to ride with my knees around chest level no matter how the seat was adjusted. Then I don’t much care for those heavy V-twins, they’re so agricultural and leave me with the feeling that I’d be better off buying Massey Ferguson or John Deere. Besides, there’s that whole ‘weekend warrior’ vibe which just isn’t me. So, crossed off the list.

Ducati and Moto Guzzi. Same issue. Lovely to look at, great performance, but the short legged peg position and problems with the electrics during wet weather tended to put me off.

Next to be examined were BMW’s. BMW’s, although the footpeg position was good for me, have a tendency to cut the handlebars a little narrower than is comfortable for long journeys. Love the long term reliability of the Boxer engine and the shaft drive…. But. And this is a big ‘but’, unlike mine, which Mrs S likes because of my still ‘high and tight’ buns. Apart from the 1150RT which they don’t make any more, none of the other models in BMW’s range had the feel that I was looking for. So bye-bye BMW.

Suzuki, Kawasaki and KLT? Close but no cigar. There’s a happy place in my heart for the 1200N Bandit and the V-Strom is okay, but Suzuki have long had an issue with finish that degrades a little too quickly for my liking, and Kawasaki tend to build for the smaller rider. KLT aren’t bad, but there’s something not quite right with the machines I’ve tried out. There’s an instinctive knowledge that after a couple of thousand miles my back would start to complain because of that tiny kink in the riding position that is almost, but not quite, right for me.

Honda? Mmm. Sooo close. Wish they still made the ST1100 Pan-European, which is a splendid touring machine, creme de la creme. Love that smooth V-four. After test riding, the ST1300 and Gold Wings are a little too big and heavy to be the kind of fun I look for as a rider. The Bagger ain’t bad, but my pillion has needs too, and she reports that the rear seats get a little uncomfortable after the first fifty miles. Which, if you’re going down the full helmet comms route, would result in a rides enjoyment being curtailed from the whining sound in my helmet earphones.

Now Triumphs. Again, there are a few which immediately get crossed off the list of potential purchases. The Supersports are built for the slighter built rider and relatively short distances. The Tigers are super trailies, but although they’re okay for rider, taking a pillion long distances is likely to cause a high pitched whining in my headsets headphones after a relatively short distance. The Bonneville and similar? Tried one while I was commuting to Bristol and back on a job. Quick and nimble, but the saddle was for shorter distances. Great for a pose down to the pub, but for serious travelling? No. So, this leaves the new Triumph Trophy with that lovely responsive in line triple powerplant and intuitive feeling riding position, comfortable saddle and leisurely pillion position. When you’re after something you can ride all day without a care. then for me, that’s it.

Still debating what we want to do about Southern France, whether we cut across the lower Central Massif and as far south as Carcasonne or stop in Nimes for a week and do day trips North, South East and West. It depends what accommodation is available on AirBnb or VRBO. Italy we’re pretty sure about our destinations, but we’ve yet to examine the options of Austria, the Czech Republic and Western Poland. The discussions continue. When decisions are made, we’ll book.

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8 thoughts on “Triumph-ant”

  1. Bill – I do recall the early triples, I had one myself at one point, a 1973 Trident which was so written off that it was bought home from a local bike shop on a wheelbarrow haha. Still, it was very cheap and almost new. Fast forward to 1999 I had a 1996 Hinckley Adventurer triple, lovely bike but so heavy. That was the one I had to push around Douglas during TT week, it didn’t like bad fuel and was amazingly difficult to start while there, I almost got stranded at the Bungalow after the day’s racing, but before the trip, and also from the moment we got off the ferry it was fine. It must have been the sea air or something. Thanks for the compliment on the artwork, it was done by a young lad straight out of art college, at the time he was working out of a bike shop in Manchester and was being evicted, so he needed the money – and I needed his work when I saw some examples.

    James – Not only have they held up, but they are now a world player with factories in Hinckley and Taiwan. They are currently at Bonneville and have – get this – HIRED the salt flats and the Bonneville team for a speed run. They have the Infor streamliner which has two supercharged Rocket 3 engines developing 1,000 horses and they are aiming at 400mph. Piloted by Guy Martin.

    http://www.motorcyclenews.com/news/2016/august/triumph-record-attempt-set-for-september/

    Triumph have also upgraded the Bonneville line for this year, 1200cc water cooled twins with ABS, ride by wire etc. Carl Fogerty has a supercharged Thruxton R in a sprint event in Germany and he’s even beaten the 300hp Kawasaki H2R on it.

    https://www.bennetts.co.uk/bikesocial/news-and-views/news/2016/august/foggy-wins-at-glemseck

    Yep, Triumph are doing very nicely.

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    1. Hey, I was at the Bonneville raceway Salt Flats in late May this year. They’re flat at that time of year all right, but also flooded to a uniform six inches on top of a few feet of salty mud, from which the recovery fees start at an eye-watering twelve hundred bucks. Like Canaveral, it’s on my ‘Go back to’ list in the USA for 2017 / 8. Although 2018 looks like we’ll be in Oz and New Zealand with a little luck and the wind in the right direction.

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      1. I don’t think you have that much time to return to Bonneville, as I have read, speed week was cancelled in 14 and 15, Triumph have been attempting to do this since 2010 but the salt flats are depleting due to salt mining I believe, not far away. Apparently if nothing is done soon it will revert to a river. 2013 was out for Triumph when Guy Martin crashed in a fireball at the Isle of man. It was a bit touch and go this year when Guy broke his back in the Ulster GP but fortunately he’s making a good recovery. Its been hold ups and postponements all the way so far.

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        1. It’s a bit wetter than usual in the Western US at present, but Speed week 2016 went ahead okay. See the organisers web site here; http://www.scta-bni.org/ One of the things that got me when we went there was how small the raceway actually is, literally tucked into one corner of the Salt Flats.

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    1. Hinckley Triumphs have come a long way James, and are world beaters. I was debating a Rocket III, but they come with footboards over here, and there’s no worthwhile footpeg conversion kit without wrecking the bottom of the frame.

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  2. Excellent choice, I’ve been a lifelong Triumph fanboy since the late 60s and my house is littered with Triumph memorabilia. Hope you enjoy the bike as much as I have with mine and hope to see you on the Triumphrat.net forum.

    For a smaller guy like myself the Bonneville makes a great tourer. You are right about the seat, I could last maybe an hour on mine without a break, but thankfully there are a few 3rd party seat options, I have a Burton seat on mine which I can stay on all day. I never do any distance touring anyway so my Bonneville isn’t kitted out for that but its great for travelling light. Its as much a hobby as a ride and has had a lot of work, including home made LED hazards and RFID hands free keyless ignition. Some pics throughout its progress:





    I guess that in a sense I never left the 60s, those old classics took a lot of spannering on a weekend. This one doesn’t need all that but gets it anyway. Its a 2010 SE. Enjoy your trip.

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    1. Yes, the Meriden era Bonnies in particular always needed a total strip down after purchase and every nut and bolt loctited to stop them shedding bits along the road. Still think they’re a terrific machine for short run fun. Do you recall the early triples and Slippery Sam replica’s? Only one issue, the carb filters used to get wet very easily, then you ended up pushing, as an old mate did one night in Douglas during TT week.

      BTW; quality artwork.

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